Why Are Vitamins Important
Living a healthy lifestyle means staying in tune with your body and listening to what it tells you. When it comes to nutrition, you do your best to get all the right nutrients to stay energized and nourished. Vitamins and supplements are there to complement the nutrients you get from food and bring you one step closer to your health and wellness goals.1
What Are The Benefits Of Taking A Vitamin D Supplement
The government says around 25% of teenagers and adults in the UK have low levels of vitamin D, which puts them at risk.
As there are so few food sources of vitamin D, and sun exposure can be unreliable, supplements are considered a safe way to prevent a deficiency.10
A 2013 review of evidence concluded that a vitamin D supplement could help protect against coughs and colds, while a separate 2013 study reported that women with lower levels of vitamin D experience tiredness and low energy.11,12
With so many factors putting us at risk of low levels, it makes sense to look at ways to supplement.
Some foods are fortified with Vitamin D, although you need to be sure it is Vitamin D3 and not just Vitamin D2.
Cod liver oil is a good source of Vitamin D supplementation .
A quality Vitamin D3 or wide-spectrum Vitamin D supplement is a sensible way to keep your daily levels topped up.
The most helpful aspect of taking any trustworthy health supplement is peace of mind. Just one little tablet or capsule per day and you can carry on knowing that you have covered your health bases.
With Vitamin D, you will be protecting your bone health, supporting your immune system, and helping your body build and maintain cells. That is why Vitamin D is one of the most important supplements you can take.
Vitamin D Affects Your Bones Muscles Joints And Tissues
We have known for a long time that vitamin D is important for bone health. One of the jobs of vitamin D is to help your gut absorb the calcium and phosphorus from your diet. These minerals in turn help build and maintain the strength of your bones. Low levels of vitamin D have been linked to stress fractures and other problems with the bones.
But vitamin D has many other functions as well. I describe it to my patients as a delicate symphony of everything that goes on in your body. If one of the instruments in this case, your vitamin D is off, it can throw off the whole symphony.
In recent years, we have learned more about how vitamin D affects the entire musculoskeletal system. We recently conducted research that looked at vitamin D levels in young women between the ages of 16 and 40 who were treated in the for a variety of problems with their lower extremities. These included injuries to the ligaments, tendons, cartilage and muscles, as well as the bones.
We found that nearly 66% of them had low levels of vitamin D in the blood about three-fifths were insufficient and the rest were actually deficient. Low blood levels were found in patients with acute injuries as well as overuse injuries. Because these rates of low vitamin D are higher than what’s seen in the general population, they suggest a link between low vitamin D and musculoskeletal injuries. More research is needed to confirm this connection.
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Its Very Individual How Much Sun Exposure A Person Needs Roberta Bivins
Its very individual how much sun exposure a person needs during summer, depending on the pigment in the skin to the amount of fat in the body and how quickly your body makes new bone. Its incredibly complicated, she says.
Thats why the best way to determine if you have low vitamin D is not by symptoms alone, but with a blood test arranged through your medic.
Then there is the question of exactly what level of supplementation people need. Reid says theres no danger in taking over-the-counter vitamin D of less than 25 nanomols per day.
US and Canada guidelines suggest taking 15 micrograms of vitamin D supplements each day, but some believe its not enough
But with supplements offering doses as high as 62.5 micrograms available over the counter, there are concerns around the risk of excessive vitamin D levels, which can, in rare cases, cause side effects, including nausea and vomiting. In the long term, some studies suggest too much vitamin D can increase risk of cardiovascular disease, although the research isnt conclusive.
But others argue that even more vitamin D is needed.
With such conflicting results, its unsurprising that medical experts themselves are deeply divided over the benefits of widespread supplementation. Some even argue that vested interests are propping up the billion-dollar vitamin industry, with Spector calling vitamin D supplements a pseudo-vitamin for a pseudo-disease.
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What Other Factors Can Lead To Vitamin D Deficiency
- Age: The skin’s ability to make vitamin D lessens with age.
- Mobility: People who are homebound or are rarely outside are not able to use sun exposure as a source of vitamin D.
- Skin color: Dark-colored skin is less able to make vitamin D than fair-colored skin.
- Human breast milk: A woman’s breast milk only contains a small amount of vitamin D. Often infant formulas also only include a small amount of D also. Therefore infants are at risk of not receiving enough vitamin D. This is especially true for infants who are only fed breast milk.
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Not Getting Enough Vitamin D
We dont need vitamin D from food or sunlight every day. But if you dont get enough over a longer period of time, you wont have enough vitamin D for good health known as vitamin D deficiency. This is very common in the UK around one in five adults and one in six children dont have enough vitamin D.
Some people are more likely to have a vitamin D deficiency than others. Supplements and eating foods which contain vitamin D can help.
How Does Sunlight Give Us Vitamin D
When we get sunlight on our skin, our body produces a substance called cholecalciferol.
This is then turned into calcidiol and then calcitriol by the liver and kidneys.
Calcitriol is what your Doctor would measure to assess your Vitamin D levels.
There are three ways to get enough Vitamin D:
During sunny months, your body might make excess calcidiol. But it will not go to waste. Any extra will be stored in your body fat as a kind of back up for those grey winter days.
Experts think that just 10 minutes of sunlight on your skin is enough to avoid Vitamin D deficiency. So get outside when you can!
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Why We Need Vitamin D
Vitamin D helps you absorb calcium and phosphorus from your diet and use these minerals to keep your bones, teeth and muscles strong. This helps prevent falls as you get older.
Vitamin D may have other roles in the bodys immune system and heart health too.A lack of vitamin D can cause bone problems such as rickets in children and muscle weakness and painful or tender bones in adults.
What Supplement Should I Take If I Am At Risk Of Low Vitamin D
The UK government recommendation stays at a minimum of 10µg vitamin D a day for vulnerable groups like the over 65s, people with darker skin and those who cover a lot of their skin for religious reasons, etc.
They just recommend that you take it all year round, and not just in autumn and winter.
We hope this guide has helped you determine which vitamin D supplement is best for you.
As always, this information cannot replace medical care, so please check with your doctor before trying any new supplements.
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Common Side Effects Of Vitamin D Vs D3
There are no common side effects to therapy with either vitamin D2 or D3. Side effects related to vitamin D are the result of hypervitaminosis D, an extremely rare condition that occurs when you intake too much vitamin D. This is sometimes seen in patients who take megadoses of vitamin D, leading to vitamin D toxicity. The result is a build up of dangerously high levels of calcium in the blood which can lead to nausea, vomiting, constipation, and frequent urination. If left untreated, irreversible renal failure can occur along with calcification of organs and soft tissues.
The following table lists side effects related to hypervitaminosis D, not normal vitamin D supplementation. More information on vitamin D toxicity may be obtained from your doctor or pharmacist, as this may not be a complete list.
Sunlight Exposure And Vitamin D
Vitamin D is associated with the sun for a reason — your body can produce its own vitamin D when you expose your skin to the sun for a period of time. About 15 minutes of sun exposure per day is what many experts say is sufficient to make vitamin D. This means you want to have a good amount of skin uncovered by clothing or sunscreen since those things inhibit Vitamin D production, according to Tolentino.
How much sun you should get is also a bit complicated. “UVB radiation from the sun triggers vitamin D synthesis in our bodies, but there are a lot of factors to consider here,” says Tolentino
She continues, “Where you live , sunscreen usage and coverage and the amount of melanin in your skin can all impact vitamin D absorption. That makes it really difficult to provide generalized guidelines for the appropriate amount of sun exposure. What may be a sufficient or healthy amount of time in the sun with no sun protection for one person might not be advisable for another person.”
You body can easily absorb a liquid vitamin D or tincture since you can take the drops under your tongue.
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Play A Role In Reducing Cancer Death
Scientists are paying increasing attention to vitamin Ds possible role in warding off cancer. A past review of 63 observational studies that analyzed the potential connection between vitamin D and breast cancer, colon cancer, ovarian cancer, and prostate cancer yielded promising results, suggesting that vitamin D may be an easy and low-cost way to help reduce cancer risk.
The VITAL study also looked at the effect of vitamin D supplements on cancer. The nutrient was not found to reduce the risk of cancer overall for participants. Yet those who developed cancer had a 25 percent lower death rate when they were taking vitamin D. The findings also pointed to a possible reduction in cancer risk for African Americans, though the researchers say that further study is needed.
Because of conflicting science and a dearth of randomized controlled trials, the NIH doesnt yet recommend vitamin D supplements to help reduce the risk of cancer.
Benefits Of Vitamin D
Vitamin D works alongside calcium and phosphorus to help keep your bones, muscles and teeth in tip-top shape. It also protects your muscle strength and prevents bone weakness, which can lead to falls and fractures if bone strength weakens.
If you consume a calcium-rich diet, vitamin D is essential to absorb that calcium into your bones and cells.
The amount of vitamin D your body makes varies during the day, and depends on how strong the sunlight is. You make more if your skin is exposed to direct sunlight. But as we age, our bodies become less efficient at making vitamin D. This applies particularly to older adults over the age of 65.
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How Is Vitamin D Deficiency Treated
The goals of treatment and prevention are the sameto reach, and then maintain, an adequate level of vitamin D in the body. While you might consider eating more foods that contain vitamin D and getting a little bit of sunlight, you will likely be told to take vitamin D supplements.
Vitamin D comes in two forms: D2 and D3. D2, also called ergocalciferol, comes from plants. D3, also called cholecalciferol, comes from animals. You need a prescription to get D2. D3, however, is available over the counter. It is more easily absorbed than D2 and lasts longer in the body dose-for-dose. Work with your doctor to find out if you need to take a vitamin supplement and how much to take if it is needed.
Getting Vitamin D From Sunlight
To make vitamin D, you need sunlight on your skin. From April until the end of September its possible to get enough vitamin D by spending time outside.
For most people, you only need to be outside for short periods of time, for example around 20-30 minutes. Although the exact time isnt known because its different for different people. If you have dark skin, for example if youre of south Asian, African or African Caribbean origin, you will need longer in the sun.
You need to have some skin exposed, for example, your forearms, hands and lower legs. But you can still make vitamin D even if you sit in the shade.
Sitting inside by a sunny window doesnt count because glass filters out the UVB rays the type of light that is needed to make vitamin D.
In the UK, we dont get enough vitamin D from sunlight between October and March, because the light doesnt contain enough UVB rays. During this time, we need to rely on getting enough vitamin D from food, and possibly supplements.
The guidelines in the UK are that everyone should consider taking a vitamin D supplement in the winter, especially if youre more like to have a deficiency.
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Vitamin D Affects How Your Body Responds To Inflammation And Pain
Our study also found that patients who had pain, including a type of knee pain known as patellofemoral-related pain frequently called runner’s knee often had low levels of vitamin D. We believe that vitamin D acts on hormones called prostaglandins, which control how the body responds to injury. Prostaglandins are connected to both inflammation and pain receptors.
Uv Levels In Victoria
As shown in the table below, from mid-August to April, average UV levels in Victoria are three and above for much of the day. This level of UV increases the risk of overexposure and skin damage, and sun protection is recommended. Using good sun protection should not put people at risk of vitamin D deficiency.From May to mid-August, average UV levels in Victoria are low . During this time, sun protection is not recommended, unless you work outdoors, are near highly reflective surfaces , or are outside for extended periods.
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Vitamin D And Sunlight
Since it can be hard to find sources of vitamin D from our diet, our main source is Sunlight. For this reason, its often referred to as the sunshine vitamin. When our skin gets exposed to the Suns ultraviolet rays, a chain of reactions is triggered, which means our body can produce several helpful chemicals, including vitamin D.
Vitamin D can then move around the body. Since its a fat-soluble vitamin, its stored within our fat cells until our body is ready to use it.
In the UK, the Suns rays arent strong enough to trigger this reaction all year round. We can typically only access high enough levels of ultraviolet rays between 11 am and 3 pm from April to September.
- There are few dietary sources of vitamin D, so our main source is Sunlight
- In the UK, the Sun is not strong enough for us to produce our own vitamin
- D all year round, so we have a higher risk of deficiency.
Do I Need A Supplement
A majority of Indians are Vitamin D deficient. This is primarily due to the fact that we live our lives in boxes home, car, office and thus have no exposure to direct sunlight.
Further, since Indians tend to have darker skin tones, our ability to absorb the rays and produce D3 is lower. So yes, Vitamin D3 supplementation is very important if you want to improve your health and fitness levels.
Being deficient can propel the onslaught of disease, like various cancers , heart disease, osteoporosis, MS, diabetes, rickets, chronic fatigue, kidney issues, chronic pain, TB, cognitive decline, psoriasis, bone fractures, depression, and many more the list is long.
There are a few options when it comes to Vitamin D3 supplementation.
- Synthetic Vitamin D3
- Vitamin D3 derived from Lichens: For a greater bio-availability, greater absorption, and a sustainable source, Lichens is the preferred option.
- Vegan Vitamin D3: Unived offers a Vegan Vitamin D3, D-veg, which gives you 2500 IU of plant-based Vitamin D3 with every serving Vitamin D is fat-soluble and hence it is recommended you consume your supplement post a meal.
Look for formulations where the Vitamin D3 is offered in a fat, as this helps with the bio-availability.
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How Much And How Often
There is an ongoing debate in the scientific community on what the Vitamin D3 dosage should be, whether it should be consumed daily or weekly, and what the toxicity levels are.
Many doctors suggest consuming a 60,000 IU-strength sachet once every two weeks as this is convenient. But thats just what it is convenient. Its not doing your health any favours.
We take Vitamin D3 supplementation only because we dont spend enough time under direct sunlight to where we can produce it ourselves. Supplementing once in two weeks is akin to spending 14 days in a cave and then spending the 15th day under direct sunlight for 15 hours until you are burnt!
Supplementing with high doses once in a while creates spikes and drops in our Vitamin D levels, which is unhealthy and best avoided a little a day goes a long way!
A few years ago most daily supplements offered 1000IU per serving, but as research has progressed the daily dosage has now increased to between 2500 IU to 5000 IU a day.
Children can be given 400-500 IU a day, and studies have shown that doses up to 10,000 IU a day are safe, but this is not recommended for all.
2500 IU a day should be fine, but intake must be on a daily and regular basis. It is also a good idea to get tested, check levels, see how the supplements are working and calibrate accordingly.
With inputs from Amit Mehta, athlete and Founder of Unived.